Thursday’s GOP debate at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena was largely a contest over which of the 10 candidates was the most hateful of social safety nets, immigrants and women. Ted Cruz bragged about never having supported amnesty. Mike Huckabee condemned the “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.” And Scott Walker stated he opposed abortion even when a woman’s life was at risk. Despite the fierce competition, Donald Trump still managed to stand out for his contemptuousness.
Trump displayed his signature arrogance, bragging and vilification of immigrants. But Thursday gave the Donald a chance to let his misogyny shine. Moderator Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his record for his sexist comments about women: “You’ve called women you don’t like, ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals.'” Trump interrupted by clarifying, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
Kelly insisted on correcting Trump with the facts, saying, “For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell. Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
Because it’s always better to show than tell, as the old writing adage goes, Trump responded to Kelly’s accusations of disrespecting women by disrespecting Kelly. “What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.” Translation: “Don’t make me treat you the way I’ve treated Rosie O’Donnell.”
For her part, O’Donnell responded on Twitter, “Try explaining that (to your) kids.”
Trump also explained the appeal, power and satisfaction that comes with the ability to donate to virtually every candidate out there. “When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me,” he said. “For Hillary Clinton, I said come to my wedding and she came to my wedding. She had no choice because I gave.” Controlling people’s wedding attendance destiny is definitely brag-worthy.
Trump wasn’t the only candidate to distinguish himself. John Kasich stood out for his logical, reasonable, rational, humane and compassionate positions on expanding Medicare and his statement that he would love his daughters even if they were gay. There go his chances for the nomination. Chris Christie and Rand Paul stood out for their contentious and sexual-tension-tinged back and forth on civil liberties and surveillance. The GOP landscape was perhaps best captured at the beginning of the debate, when Kelly kicked things off by asking Dr. Ben Carson, the only Black man on the stage, if he was really qualified to be president. Singling him out was a great way to appeal to the Republicans watching the debate. Very big tent. Very post-racial.